In-form sides Schalke and FC Krasnodar will face off at the Veltins-Arena in the UEFA Europa League tomorrow evening, with a win for the hosts securing their place in the knockout stages whilst a draw for the away side would likely be too much ground for third placed side Nice to make up on them in the final two games.
Since the two sides last met in Russia two weeks ago, neither team has lost in their respective divisions and cup competitions. Schalke have beaten Mainz and Nurnberg in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal respectively, and also saw the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund end in a 0-0 draw last weekend.
Krasnodar have also enjoyed good form since they lost 1-0 to Schalke thanks to Yevgen Konoplyanka's strike after just 11 minutes. The Russian side defeated Amkar in the league and overcame Orenburg 3-2 after extra time in the cup. Their most recent match was very similar to Schalke's in that it was a 0-0 away draw following a cup win, with Anzhi Makachkala being the side that kept Krasnodar at bay, despite seeing Charles Kabore sent off for two bookable offences after just 17 minutes.
Hosts looking to maintain their 100% record in the group stage
Schalke's sudden upturn in form has led to them moving up to 12th place in the Bundesliga, after they originally lay bottom of the division with five losses from their opening five games. Now however they are starting to play to the ability that the names on their team sheet suggest they should be, although they still have work to do if they are to break into the top six which surprisingly includes teams such as RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim.
Markus Weinzierl's men have kept four clean sheets in their last seven games, with their back three of Naldo, Benedikt Howedes and Matija Nastasic holding firm in front of goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann.
With the two teams on nine and six points respectively, they occupy the top two spots in Group I and do not look like showing signs of letting up as we enter the crucial last few games of the group stage.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, Weinzierl was keen to stress that "the Bundesliga is the main thing we are concerned about", although the Schalke manager also said that he will be "really, really pleased" if his side secure their fourth win from four group games tomorrow evening.
The Royal Blues have something of an injury crisis at the moment, with Breel Embolo, Klass Jan Huntelaar, Maximilian Meyer and Franco Di Santo all injured and unavailable for tomorrow's game leaving them with only one fit player who has experience of player as a striker. That man is Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who admitted to Sky Sport News that he "[hasn't] played this position in a while" but that at the same time he remains confident that he "can do well at it."
Midfielder Johannes Geis also commented on the injury problems his team are going through at the minute, saying that whilst "it is brutal" his side still have "a lot of quality in our attacking game."
The away side have a couple of injuries to their name, with star striker Fyodor Smolov unavailable for the match due to a knee injury. In addition to the absence of Smolov, midfielder Dmitri Torbinski is also looking like a doubt as the 32-year--old is set to miss his fifth consecutive game due to his injury setback.
FC Schalke 04 (4-2-3-1): Fahrmann; Kolasinac, Naldo, Nastasic, Howedes; Bentaleb, Geis; Schopf, Goretzka, Konoplyanka; Choupo-Moting.
FC Krasnodar (4-3-3): Kritsyuk; Petrov, Granqvist, Martynovich, Bystrov; Gazinskiy, Kabore, Izmailov; Joaozinho, Ari, Podberezkin.